Before I begin, let me apologize for the unexpected absence. I’ve always found writing difficult, and one of the reasons I started this project was to keep that particular creative muscle limber, but it can be hard to break through the block when the real world keeps intruding. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things now that Spring has sprung!
Without further ado, I’d like to continue my first impressions of Legacy of the Sith with a focus on the story. With the benefit of the extra time between posts, I’ll also touch on my gameplay experiences over the last few weeks as well.
Manaan, Manaan, Do Doo Be-Do-Do
Legacy of the Sith kicks off with a return visit to the Manaan system. If you thought things were a mess the last time you visited, wait until you see it now.
However, before we land, there is a pleasant surprise for players: the return of our class ships which play a prominent roll in the opening sequence. Whether it’s the Millennium Falcon, the Moldy Crow or the Gravestone, a cool space ship is as an important character in a Star Wars story as a trusty droid or adorable Muppet, and I was very happy to see my characters at the controls of their beloved hunks of junks once again. I trust we’ll be taking them out for a spin more often going forward.
Upon landing, we discover that events are already in motion, and whether you are playing a Republic or Sith character, you’ll be catching up with the situation and resolving things as only you can. Both Republic and Sith players will team up with a welcome familiar face, but there are some new characters to meet along the way. Colonel Gallo is very much a soldier’s soldier, someone with whom Republic players will interact, not unlike Major Anri on the Imperial side. She gives a tired, suspicious voice to the people of Manann who yet again are caught in the crosshairs of the galactic war.
Imperial characters will meet Darth Norok, whose initial introduction is a clever fake out. When we’re finally in the same room with him, we discover he is, as Shintar pointed out, every Dark Side Sith player character’s cliché made manifest. Despite being someone who has taken the Sith code to its logical, nihilistic extreme, Norok is a totally entertaining antagonist for reasonable and unreasonable characters alike.
As we saw on Ossus and throughout Onslaught, both the Republic and Sith stories take place in the same setting, but this time around the two narratives feel more distinct. Previously it could seem like the differences between the Republic and Sith play throughs were that you were experiencing roughly the same story, just in different directions. On Manaan there is more separation in time and less overlapping events between both stories. Ever since Shadow of Revan, each of our character’s SWTOR stories has taken place on separate narrative timelines, but once again, the two factions’ stories expands on the events and backstory of the other and once again I think its rewarding to experience both versions.
Regardless, there are definitely themes shared between the tales on Manaan and Elom. The seemingly endless war between the Jedi and Sith, have left the worlds caught in the middle stuck in a hopeless situation. Is the Republic really there to help or just exploit the Selkath with a smile instead of at the tip of a lightsaber? What is victory to a Sith? Is it enough to achieve an objective or must all their enemies be driven before them, regardless of the cost?
It’s into the midst of this morass that our players arrive, and, sadly as current events show, the answers to these sort of questions are not easy to find, and while our characters may triumph, neither story seems to feel like victory for Manaan. And the war goes on.
The renewed conflict between the Republic and the Empire flared up during Onslaught, but was more or less kept in the background with the focus on Darth Malgus’ ambitions and Heta Kol’s rebellion against Mandalore. I think taking a beat to touch base with what’s going on with the war is important to establishing the setting of all the narratives strings tugging at our characters, even if we may have less personal stakes in the larger conflict.
Not for Nothing: Disorder and The Ruins of Nul
Because those stakes matter to Malgus. He’s been in this fight for decades and at the center of every up and down along the way. At this point, it’s fair to say, he’s feeling pretty down about it.
I’ve always found Darth Malgus to be an interesting villain because he’s almost sympathetic, y’know, except for all the murder and the betrayal. Certainly, several of my characters would’ve joined his New Empire on Ilum given the chance. The thought of a united Sith Empire that has its act together is a truly terrifying notion, but his coup accomplished nothing more than to cement the status quo and leave him bound in more chains than the lowest acolyte on Korriban.
At the point, we catch up with him on Elom, he’s done with it all. Free of the shackles placed on him by the Dark Council, he no longer wants to restore or remake the Empire. His goal is to burn it all down, Sith and Jedi alike.
But is he wrong? The war between the Sith and the Jedi has ravaged the galaxy for centuries with no end in sight. Of course the Sith Empire should be resisted; their every policy and petty infighting mark them as the enemy of freedom. But the story of the Jedi in Star Wars is more often than not about their inability to live up to their own standards and their failure to protect those who need it the most.
These issues are reflected in the wonderful “Disorder” cinematic. There are clear allusions to the story of Arcann, Thexan and Vaylin in this interlude, but instead of watching children struggle under Valkorion’s corrupting influence, we are confronted with the sight of a Jedi breaking up a family and forcing another child into a life they haven’t chosen. There is more going on here than we know, of course. Perhaps the machine, or Malgus, or even Darth Nul are manipulating the memories of the young Twi’lek Jedi, Sa’har Kateen. Nevertheless, as a child, how could she have possibly understood the path before her to become a Jedi? She is right to ask her master Denolm Orr whose decision it really was. I think his failure to answer in that moment speaks volumes.
I’ve often joked that if Anakin Skywalker had been able to date girls in high school and call his mom every once in a while, there never would’ve been a Darth Vader. Sure, the Jedi can teach you to move rocks with your mind and do a bunch of cool flips and splits, but they don’t seem to be the best parents. Certainly Theron Shan would agree. Valkorion’s treatment of his family is monstrous, but the Jedi tradition of separating children from their families hardly reflects well on them.
I’m glad to see SWTOR address these issues, because these kind of questions have always been at the center of the game’s stories and every choice our characters have made over the years. What kind of Jedi or Sith do we want to be? What kind of Republic or Empire do we want to represent?
I get it. It’s called Star Wars. “War” is right there in the name. If the Sith defeat the Jedi or the Republic topples the Empire once and for all, there is no game left. But that doesn’t mean the questions shouldn’t be asked. It doesn’t matter if its a Padawan hopping their first shuttle to fleet, a Trooper fighting their way across Corellia, a Dark Lord of the Sith descending upon Oricon, or a Bounty Hunter caught in a shoot out with a Smuggler in a back alley on Mek Sha. The trials never end. And the choices are only meaningful if we keep making them.
As for the flashpoint where all this takes place, the Ruins of Nul is breathtaking in its sublime beauty. I reckon its SWTOR’s most picturesque flashpoint. I took great pleasure in stopping to admire the world’s misty valleys, the snowy peaks, and the cold, grey sky. I’ve thought for a while that players could use a Sith-themed stronghold to call home, and while I had imagined that Oricon or perhaps Nathema would be the ideal place for one, I feel now that I’d love to decorate a mountainside lodge or temple on Elom.
But the thing the flashpoint is most infamous for is the Darth Malgus fight and the bugs that have vexed players and developers alike. Personally, I haven’t encountered significant issues completing that encounter, but a guildmate of mine hasn’t been able to beat it at all, and I watched another get punched through the floor seconds into our first Veteran mode pass. It’s a drag that what should be the dramatic climax to the flashpoint is instead the source of frustration for players. I hope this is a bug that gets squashed very soon indeed.
You Should’ve Killed Me When You Had the Chance
I do want to speculate a bit about what I think might be coming next in the story, but that seems like a topic for another time. Instead, I’ll quickly touch on some of the system changes introduced with 7.0 now that I’ve had some time to play with them.
I continue to love the addition of Combat Styles and Loadouts. It’s allowed me to focus on the characters I most want to play and makes swapping between roles and gear easy.
The focus of a lot, but not all, of my playtime since 7.0’s debut has been gearing. I hit the 326 item rating for my main spec recently and I don’t think it was bad process at all. I took it pretty casually, mainly along the flashpoint path, supplemented with some PVP and Operations gear. I didn’t grind world bosses or pug Nefra, I just did things with friends and guildmates and let the heroics and dailies I do for Conquest take care of the rest.
Gearing in Legacy of the Sith is an engine, and everything you do is fuel for that engine. Once it starts humming, the upgrades come at a steady pace. The problem, I think, is that it can take a bit to get that engine up to speed. It took me longer to get from 320 to 322 than it did to get from 324 to 326. I’d like to see it get a little easier for fresh level 80 players to jump-start the process. Maybe reduce the cost of 322 gear or make it a bit more likely to get those first upgrades from some of the daily sources or easier group content.
I know there have been complaints about the various currencies, but the only ones that I think serve little to no purpose are Medals of Commendation. Once you collect your first Conquest reward, you won’t ever worry about them again. I don’t know any active player who is not capped out in Medals. The cap is low compared to other currencies, but given that I have more than I need and there is nothing to burn the excess on, I just kind of think of them as pennies. The only time I notice them now is when I have to clear out a few to collect even more from the Galactic Seasons reward track.
I vacillate between thinking Bioware should get rid them altogether and wishing there were something else to spend them on. Tech Fragments are still useful to most players, but maybe Kai Zykken could start accepting Medals for his random loot. Or maybe we could purchase crafting materials like Iokath Recombinators or the OEMs and RPMs needed for gold augments. For now I keep the Medals in a jug on a shelf that I only empty when I have to.
The other thing I’ve been doing with my time is fully engaging with the new Galactic Season. The updates to the second season have given me much more flexibility and freedom in how and when I score points along the track every week. It’s so nice to be able to team up with friends and bang out objectives together. I’ve also enjoyed the change of pace from some of the more usual objectives as well, and I hope to see more of that in the future.
I also think the rewards are pretty rad. Fen Zeil may be a hatless Cad Bane, but, he still looks cool in action alongside my characters. The Thurbb mounts are a hoot, and the weapons are all very slick. I’m eagerly awaiting the addition of weapons to the outfit designer so that I can actually start using them!
So, yeah, I’m having fun in Legacy of the Sith so far. Absolutely, I am jonesing to check out the new R4 Anomaly operation, and, yes, indeed, there are many storylines flying around right now that I’m hoping to see resolved before long. Are the bugs annoying and frustrating? Absolutely.
But I’m still having a good time when I play. Since we’re at the start of the gearing cycle, the old flashpoints and operations feel a lot like they did when I first ran them back in the day, and that’s kind of refreshing. It’s satisfying to get upgrades from more difficult content, and it’s been neat playing with different combinations of skills and loadouts.
If your experience is different, I get it. Maybe you’re tired of the same operations and flashpoints you’ve run for years. Maybe the visual changes aren’t to your tastes. Maybe you’re just here for the story. Maybe you’re just not having fun. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone they are wrong about any of that.
SWTOR has always been the theme parkiest of theme park MMO’s, and they made it easy to come and go as you please. Heck, if all you care about is the story, you likely won’t even need to re-subscribe to play the remainder of Legacy of the Sith’s story updates over the next couple of years.
But SWTOR’s not going anywhere for a while yet. There are good people working very hard to put our characters at the center of an epic story and to make it the best game they can. I’m here for that, and I hope they succeed. Because more often than not, over the last decade, I think they have.
As for me, I can’t promise my writer’s block has been crushed to powder just yet. Sadly, my plans for April Fools will have to wait until next year, but I promise, at least, to dust off the Aurebesh and get back to the translation business very soon.